Made with products you probably have on hand, these homemade carpet cleaners will tackle virtually any stain.

By Jennifer Davidson
June 04, 2019
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Let’s face it, spills happen. Whether it’s an errant cup of coffee, a magic marker mishap, or muddy paw prints, carpets and rugs are magnets for accidents. Thankfully, there’s a homemade carpet cleaning solution for virtually any mess—and the best part is, they don’t require special store-bought sprays or solvents. With just a few ingredients you probably already have on hand, you can DIY your own carpet cleaner to tackle any stain.

The first step is to determine whether your carpet is made of synthetic or natural fibers. Then follow our guide below to find out which combination of ingredients is best for your type of stain and your type of carpet. Follow these recipes for homemade carpet cleaners exactly and your rug will be on its way to being stain-free once again. (Until the next mess, at least.)

Homemade Cleaners for Synthetic Carpets

Dip a white cloth into these DIY carpet cleaners for synthetic rugs and apply to the stain. Never pour the solutions directly onto carpeting.

  • Detergent solution: Mix ¼ teaspoon of a translucent liquid dishwashing detergent, such as Dawn or Joy, into one cup of lukewarm water.
  • Vinegar solution: Mix one cup of white vinegar with two cups of water.
  • Solvent solution: Use an oil solvent. Or substitute nail polish remover, such as Cutex Quick & Gentle non-acetone polish remover.

Homemade Cleaners for Natural-Fiber Carpets

Place these natural-fiber carpet cleaning solutions (except the solvent) in spray bottles and mist them lightly onto the stain.

  • Detergent solution: Mix one teaspoon of translucent liquid dishwashing detergent, such as Dawn or Joy, into 1 cup of lukewarm water.
  • Vinegar solution: Mix ¼ cup of white vinegar with ¼ cup of water.
  • Ammonia solution: Mix one tablespoon of clear household ammonia with ½ cup of lukewarm water.
  • Solvent solution: Same as for synthetic carpets (see above).

How to Remove Food and Drink Stains From Carpets

Synthetic-fiber carpets and rugs

Follow the instructions below to treat wine, ketchup, chocolate, coffee, tea, beer, milk, tomato sauce, berries, hard candy, juice, soda, Gatorade, and Kool-Aid stains:

  1. Dip a white cloth (or a white paper towel with no printing) into the homemade detergent solution for synthetic carpets and dab repeatedly, then press the cloth on the spot for a few seconds. Wait 15 minutes (it takes time to break down the stain), then soak up the excess liquid with a dry white cloth.
  2. Dip a cloth into the vinegar solution for synthetic carpets and dab repeatedly, then press the cloth on the spot for a few seconds. Wait another 15 minutes. (This is an important step, because white vinegar removes residual detergent, which will attract dirt if left in the carpet.)
  3. Rinse by blotting with a cloth soaked in lukewarm water. Wait one hour or until the carpet dries completely. For bad spills, place a half-inch-thick stack of white paper towels over the stain after step 2, then lay a glass baking dish on top for 15 minutes.
  4. As long as you see the stain lightening, repeat these steps until it is gone.

Natural-fiber carpets and rugs

Follow the instructions below to treat beer, coffee, and tea stans with your DIY carpet stain remover:

  1. Spray the stain with the homemade detergent solution for natural-fiber carpets, then blot with a dry white cloth.
  2. Spray the stain with vinegar solution for natural-fiber carpets, then blot with a dry white cloth.
  3. Spray the stain with detergent solution for natural-fiber carpets, then blot with a dry white cloth.
  4. Spray the stain with lukewarm water, then blot with a dry white cloth.
  5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 until the stain is removed.

For hard candy, chocolate, berries, juice, wine, soda, and milk stains:

Follow steps 1 to 5 (above), with one addition: Before applying the vinegar solution in step 2, spray the stain with the ammonia solution for natural-fiber carpets, then blot with a dry white cloth.

For ketchup, Gatorade, Kool-Aid, and tomato sauce stains:
Follow steps 1 to 5 (above), but substitute the ammonia solution for the vinegar one in step 2.

How to Remove Oil and Grease Stains From Carpets

Follow the instructions below to treat butter, salad dressing, cheese, eggnog, cooking oil, tree sap, crayon, lotion, mascara, lipstick, and nail polish stains with your homemade carpet stain remover.

Synthetic-fiber carpets and rugs

  1. Apply a small amount of homemade carpet cleaning solvent to a white cloth. Dab repeatedly, then press the cloth on the spot for a few seconds. 
  2. Rinse by blotting with a white cloth soaked in lukewarm water. 
  3. Wait one hour or until the carpet completely dries. If the stain is getting lighter, repeat until the stain is removed. 

Natural-fiber carpets and rugs

  1. Apply a small amount of solvent to a white cloth, then blot. 
  2. Spray the stain with detergent solution, then blot with a dry white cloth. 
  3. Spray the stain with lukewarm water, then blot with a dry white cloth. 
  4. Wait one hour or until the carpet completely dries. If the stain is getting lighter, repeat these steps until it is gone.

How to Remove Dirt and Mud From Carpets

Synthetic-fiber carpets and rugs

  1. Vacuum any dry dirt to remove as much as possible.
  2. Dip a white cloth into the detergent solution for synthetic-fiber carpets and dab repeatedly, then press the cloth on the spot for a few seconds. Wait 15 minutes, then soak up the excess liquid with a dry white cloth.
  3. Dip another dry white cloth in lukewarm water and dab repeatedly, then press it on the spot for a few seconds. 

Natural-fiber carpets and rugs

  1. Vacuum any dry dirt to remove as much as possible.
  2. Spray the stain with the detergent solution for natural-fiber carpets, then blot with a dry white cloth.
  3. Spray the stain with the vinegar solution for natural-fiber carpets, then blot with a dry white cloth.
  4. Reapply the detergent solution, then blot with a dry white cloth.
  5. Spray the stain with lukewarm water, then blot with a dry white cloth.

How to Remove Chewing Gum and Wax From Carpets

Synthetic-fiber and natural-fiber carpets and rugs

  1. Gently rub the spot with a Ziploc bag filled with ice cubes until the stain hardens. Shatter it with a blunt object, such as a spatula and vacuum up the chips. 
  2. Apply a small amount of solvent with a white cloth, then blot. 
  3. Rinse by blotting with a cloth soaked in lukewarm water.

How to Remove Gravy and Mayonnaise From Carpets

Synthetic-fiber carpets and rugs

  1. Apply a small amount of solvent to a white cloth, then blot. Wait 15 minutes to dry. Repeat if necessary.
  2. Rinse by blotting with a white cloth soaked in lukewarm water. Wait 15 minutes, then soak up the excess liquid with a dry white cloth.

Natural-fiber carpets and rugs

Gravy:

  1. Spray the stain with detergent solution for natural-fiber carpets, then blot with a dry white cloth.
  2. Spray the stain with ammonia solution for natural-fiber carpets, then blot with a dry white cloth.
  3. Spray the stain with vinegar solution for natural-fiber carpets, then blot with a dry white cloth.
  4. Reapply the detergent solution, then blot with a dry white cloth.
  5. Spray the stain with water, then blot with a dry white cloth.

Mayonnaise:

  1. Spray the stain with detergent solution for natural-fiber carpets, then blot with a dry white cloth.
  2. Spray the stain with ammonia solution for natural-fiber carpets, then blot with a dry white cloth.
  3. Spray the stain with vinegar solution for natural-fiber carpets, then blot with a dry white cloth.
  4. Reapply the detergent solution, then blot with a dry white cloth.

How to Remove Ink and Marker From Carpets

Synthetic-fiber carpets and rugs

Ballpoint Ink:

  1. Apply a small amount of solvent to a white cloth, then blot. Wait 15 minutes to dry; repeat if necessary.
  2. Rinse by blotting with a cloth soaked in lukewarm water.

Permanent Felt-Tip Marker:

  1. Apply a small amount of solvent to a white cloth, then blot. Wait 15 minutes to dry.
  2. Dip a white cloth into detergent solution and dab repeatedly, then press the cloth on the spot for a few seconds. Wait 15 minutes, then soak up the excess liquid with a dry white cloth.
  3. Rinse by blotting with a white cloth soaked in lukewarm water.

Natural-fiber carpets and rugs

Ballpoint Ink:

  1. Spray the stain with detergent solution for natural-fiber carpets, then blot with a dry white cloth.
  2.  Spray the stain with ammonia solution for natural-fiber carpets, then blot with a dry white cloth.
  3. Spray the stain with vinegar solution for natural-fiber carpets, then blot with a dry white cloth.
  4. Reapply the detergent solution, then blot with a dry white cloth.
  5. Spray the stain with water, then blot with a dry white cloth.

Permanent Felt-Tip Marker:

  1. Apply a small amount of solvent to a white cloth, then blot.
  2. Spray the stain with detergent solution, then blot with a dry white cloth.
  3. Spray the stain with water, then blot with a dry white cloth.

How to Clean Pet Accidents

Synthetic-fiber carpets and rugs

  1. Dip a white cloth into detergent solution for synthetic-fiber carpets and dab repeatedly, then press the cloth on the spot for a few seconds.
  2. Wait 15 minutes, then soak up the excess liquid with a dry white cloth.
  3. Dip the cloth into vinegar solution for synthetic-fiber carpets and dab repeatedly, then press the cloth on the spot for a few seconds. Wait another 15 minutes.
  4. Wait one hour or until the carpet dries completely. If the stain is getting lighter, repeat the first three steps until the stain is gone.

Natural-fiber carpets and rugs

  1. Spray the stain with detergent solution for natural-fiber carpets, then blot with a dry white cloth.
  2. Spray the stain with ammonia solution for natural-fiber carpets, then blot with a dry white cloth.
  3. Spray the stain with vinegar solution for natural-fiber carpets, then blot with a dry white cloth.
  4. Reapply the detergent solution, then blot with a dry white cloth.
  5. Spray the stain with lukewarm water, then blot with a dry white cloth.

RelatedHow to Clean Your Rugs and Carpets—and Why You’re Not Doing It Often Enough

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